Le Mans, France
The first major change to the 2014 MotoGP schedule has been announced. Though the dates remain the same, the order of the Asian flyaway triple header has been reshuffled, with Sepang moving from first of the three to last. The Grand Prix classes will now head to Japan first, for the Japanese GP at Motegi on 12th October, before heading south to Australia for the Phillip Island round a week later, on 19th October. The weekend after that the MotoGP paddock visits Malaysia, for the last of the three overseas races at Sepang on 26th October.
The change is unlikely to be the last. It is widely anticipated that the new track in Brasilia will not be ready for the Brazilian round of MotoGP on 28th September, and that the Motorland Aragon race, due to take place on 21st September, will be rescheduled for a week later. That decision will not take place for some time, however, as the Autodromo Brasilia Nelson Piquet will be given a few more months before the mandatory circuit homologation inspection.
Below is the updated, and still provisional, 2014 MotoGP calendar, with changes highlighted in bold. You can always find the latest, most up-to-date version including all changes on this page.
The 2014 MotoGP calendar (provisional):
The FIM today issued a press release confirming the 18-month ban imposed retrospectively on Ant West for using banned substances. The Australian has had all of his results scrapped, between 20th May 2012 and 19th October 2013. That includes the two podiums he scored at Sepang and Phillip Island at the end of 2012, meaning that Gino Rea moves up to 2nd at Sepang, and Hafizh Syahrin will be awarded 3rd place (and his first podium), while Marc Marquez takes 2nd at Phillip Island, and Scott Redding adds another podium to his tally to take 3rd.
The official FIM Press release is shown below:
Doping - Decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case of rider Anthony West
The FIM has taken note of the Award handed down on 22 November 2013 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the case of rider Anthony West, participant in the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix in the Moto2 Class.
On 20 May 2012, Anthony West underwent an anti-doping test conducted by the FIM at the 2012 French Grand Prix. The urine sample obtained from Mr West revealed the presence of a stimulant (Methylhexaneamine) prohibited in competition under the FIM Anti-doping Code in force.
Ant West has been issued a retroactive ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and has had almost all the results for the last 18 months declared invalid. All of West's results between the Le Mans 2012 race and 20th October 2013 have been declared null and void, and will be scrapped from the official Moto2 results.
The retroactive ban goes back to a failed doping test at Le Mans in 2012. West had bought a supplement energy drink without checking the ingredients, and subsequently failed a drug test. The energy drink (Mesomorph) turned out to contain the banned substance methylhexaneamine, traces of which were found in West's urine. At the time, the FIM imposed a one month suspension on West, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against the leniency of the ban, and that appeal has now been partially upheld.
The FIM have today released the provisional version of the MotoGP calendar for 2014. As expected, there are few surprises: with the addition of Argentina and Brazil, there will be nineteen races on the calendar, though Brazil is not expected to be ready to host a race next year, the event likely to be postponed until 2015. Laguna Seca is gone from the calendar, leaving just two US races on for 2014. And once again, there are four Spanish rounds on for next season, although Jerez is marked subject to contract.
The season opens with the night race in Qatar on March 23rd, though this decision is likely to face criticism from the riders. Moving the race two weeks earlier increases the risk of the evening dew which settles on the surface hitting earlier, while the bikes are still out on track. That was the case in previous years, when the race was held earlier, with some major crashes as a result. The dew settles quickly and is impossible to see under the lights, but renders the asphalt extremely slippery within a very short period.
With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders. In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.
For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from 6 to 5 per season. Each rider now has 5 engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out. While Honda and Ducati are right on course to last the season, Yamaha find themselves unexpectedly struggling. An unidentified design flaw has seen Yamaha losing engines too rapidly for comfort. Both factory Yamaha men have had an engine withdrawn, while there are question marks over the life left in one engine each allocated to Valentino Rossi and the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders.
Jorge Lorenzo's disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans has been the cause of some debate. The factory Yamaha man finished a lowly seventh, his worst finish (other than DNFs) since his rookie season in 2008, and finishing off the podium for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011. To say this was an uncharacteristic performance from Lorenzo is something of an understatement.
So what went wrong? Immediately after the race, Lorenzo made it clear that he believed the problem was with his rear tire. He had had no grip whatsoever, and been unable to get any drive from his rear tire. He told the press afterwards that the only logical explanation he could think of for his problems was a defective rear tire. Lorenzo had been fast in the morning warm up, though it was a little drier then, and the set up used was very similar to then. In 2012, Lorenzo had won at Le Mans by a huge margin, so he could not understand why he was struggling so badly in France.
As is customary, the Bridgestone media service issued their post-race debrief on tire performance on Tuesday, in which they discuss how the tires they selected held up during the race at Le Mans the previous weekend. This week's press release is more interesting than most, as it contains a denial from Bridgestone that there was anything wrong with the rear tire used by Jorge Lorenzo in the race on Sunday, countering claims that his tire was defective.
Speaking to the media after the race on Sunday, Lorenzo said that although he was not a tire engineer, he could think of no other explanation but a defective tire for the complete lack of rear grip he had suffered throughout the race. The setting they had used in the wet morning warm up had worked well, Lorenzo said. In 2012, under similar conditions, he had not had a single problem, he explained, going on to win the race by nearly 10 seconds. Lorenzo also pointed to the fact that Valentino Rossi had had problems with a tire on Saturday morning, and had that one replaced, as is allowed under the rules if a defective tire is found.
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Titles, Shot Tires, Fast Students, And A Spaniard-Free Podium
Defending titles is not easy. In the last twenty years, only Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have managed to win successive championships, despite both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner winning twice. Why is it so hard? A lot of reasons. Nothing motivates a rider, a team or a factory like losing. Winning a championship requires a lot of hard work and talent, but also a smattering of luck, and at some point, luck runs out. Winning a title means always looking forward, eyes on the prize, while defending a title means looking back, at everyone out to get you. All these things combine to make winning the second title in a row much, much harder than winning the first one.
Jorge Lorenzo found this out the hard way in 2011, when he faced an unleashed Casey Stoner on the Honda RC212V. And now, after his second title in 2012, he's learning exactly the same lesson again, this time at the hands of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez on the Honda RC213V. At Le Mans, all of the above factors came together, working against Lorenzo to drop him down the field, and move him from just four points to seventeen points adrift of the new championship leader, Dani Pedrosa.
What happened? First and foremost, the Hondas happened. Dani Pedrosa rode a brilliant race to take his second win in a row. It was arguably one of the best races of his career: getting a fantastic start, managing the wet conditions brilliantly, and putting in a number of hard, precise attacks to gain positions. His pass at Garage Vert to take the lead for the final time was one of particular beauty: jamming the bike precisely inside Dovizioso on the first of the double right handers, holding the tighter line, then taking a clear lead through the second. From that point he was gone. Since the Sachsenring last year, Pedrosa has won nine of the last fifteen races, a strike rate of sixty percent. That's the kind of batting average you need to win a title.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after an exhilarating French Grand Prix in Le Mans:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's thrilling races at Le Mans:
Race summary and results for MotoGP: